Technology & Science

Minnesota community bans Google Street View

The small, private community of North Oaks, Minn., enforces its trespassing ordinance, and Google Maps is no exception.

The small, private community of North Oaks, Minn., enforces its trespassing ordinance, and Google Maps is no exception.

The website's Street View allows users to see what a certain address or intersection looks like on the ground, but the option is no longer available in the town north of St. Paul after city officials demanded that Google remove the images.

The roads in the city of about 4,500 are owned by the residents, and No Trespassing signs are located at the city's entrances.

So when city officials found out images of residents' homes could be found on Google Maps, they took action.

"It's not the hoity-toity folks trying to figure out how to keep the world away," said Mayor Thomas Watson. "They really didn't have any authorization to go on private property."

In a letter sent to Google in January, the North Oaks council threatened to cite the company for violating the city's trespassing ordinance if it didn't remove images and destroy the files.

Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo said the company removed the images after receiving the letter. She didn't know of any other city in the country that had taken such action.

"This is very rare where an entire town would request to be taken off," Filadelfo said.

But Google Maps Street View certainly hasn't been free from controversy since its introduction last spring.

Privacy concerns delay Canadian launch

The application has been delayed in coming to Canada after privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said last year the images appeared to have been collected largely without the consent of the people who appear in them, in violation of Canada's privacy laws.

Peter Fleischer, Google's top voice on privacy, said the company is working on a version of the application that will adhere to Canada's privacy laws.

In the U.S. the Pentagon banned Google Maps from taking images of military facilities, and a Pittsburgh couple filed a lawsuit against Google over images of their home taken from a private road.

Filadelfo said the company receives some requests from individuals who don't want their homes displayed on the website, but those images are removed from public view and would never be sold.

Images used for the website's feature are collected by drivers in cars with the company's logo.

North Oaks took down its gates 24 years ago, and Filadelfo said it's likely the driver taking the images didn't see the No Trespassing signs.

"Certainly private roads are something we take seriously," Filadelfo said. "But it may not be immediately apparent with a whole city."

You can still find aerial images of North Oaks homes on sites such as Windows Live Search Maps, but Watson said they would be left alone because city ordinances weren't violated to obtain those pictures.